The McDermott Athletic Center in Rio Rancho played host to Grapple Industries’ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu round-robin tournament.

The tournament featured jiu jitsu competitors from training academies throughout New Mexico who have trained for months to get a spot on the podium.

“When I get ready for a competition, I try to bump up the intensity so I can make sure my cardiovascular health is in check,” said blue belt jiu jitsu practitioner Nora Howells.

Unfortunately, not everyone who signed up got a match, including Howells, a sophomore at V. Sue Cleveland High School, who trains and serves as a kids coach at The War Room School of Jiu Jitsu on the Westside. However, that did not stop Howells from cornering [coaching] her students, cheering on her teammates, and supporting her brother.

Gio Wins! 8-year-old Giovanni Carrillo wins silver (Daniel Zuniga/for the

“I see these kids come in, I see them grow, I see them maybe get better than me like my little brother,” said Howells. “They invite me to get my hair braided with them before a competition, I love these kids.”

The War Room School of Jiu Jitsu crowd had the room shaking every time a teammate took the mat.

“Whether we win, whether we lose, whether we fall, whether we are standing up, they are always there to offer support,” Howells said.

Among the top performers was Shadrach Ball

One of the youngest competitors was 8-year-old Giovanni Carrillo, who claimed silver in both the Gi and No Gi kids divisions.

“I try to remember to attack first,” said Carrillo.

When he is not in class at Joe Harris Elementary school, Carrillo trains at the One Jiu Jitsu academy in Rio Rancho.

“I like jiu jitsu because it’s self-defense,” Carrillo said. “If somebody tries to come and hurt me, I know what to do.”

The competition did feature a ton of schedule changes including delayed match times. However, the wait was well worth it for Ramirez Jiu Jitsu’s  Shadrach Ball, who claimed gold in both the Gi and No Gi divisions.

“In jiu jitsu, no matter how untalented or how good you are, you always have to put in hard work,” Ball said.

In his past two competitions, Ball has come home with gold medals, and he is ready to get back to the drawing board .

“I’m kind of gassed but yeah it [tournament] went pretty well,” he said. “I need to work on keeping my guard closed, look for more submissions, and work on keeping my grips tight.”